Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Peel, Jonathan

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PEEL, JONATHAN (1799–1879), politician and patron of the turf, fifth son of Sir Robert Peel [q. v.], cotton manufacturer, and brother of Sir Robert Peel [q. v.], the statesman, was born at Chamber Hall, near Bury, Lancashire, on 12 Oct. 1799. He was sent to Rugby in 1811, and on 15 June 1815, three days before the battle of Waterloo, received a commission as second lieutenant in the rifle brigade. The peace that followed prevented him from seeing service, and his subsequent steps were obtained by purchase. From 18 Feb. 1819 to 13 Dec. 1821 he served as a lieutenant in the 71st highlanders, and from 7 Nov. 1822 to 19 May 1825 as a lieutenant in the grenadier guards. He was a major of the 69th foot from 3 Oct. 1826 to 7 June 1827, and lieutenant-colonel of the 53rd foot from 7 June 1827 until he was placed on half-pay on 9 Aug. 1827. He became a brevet colonel on 23 Nov. 1841, a major-general on 20 June 1854, a lieutenant-general on 7 Dec. 1859, and sold out of the army on 4 Aug. 1863. In 1854 he applied to Lord Panmure, the secretary for war, for permission to join the army before Sebastopol. He was then a hale man, aged only fifty-five, but his application was refused on the ground that he was too old.

At the general election in 1826 Peel entered parliament in the tory interest as one of the members for Norwich. He exchanged in 1831 for the more secure borough of Huntingdon, which he continued to represent down to his retirement from parliamentary life at the dissolution of 1868. During his brother's second administration, 1841–6, Peel held the post of surveyor-general of the ordnance. He was not given office in Lord Derby's first administration in 1852. But Derby, when he again became premier in 1858, appointed Peel secretary of state for the war department and a member of the cabinet by way of paying a tribute of respect to the name of Sir Robert Peel, his former colleague and rival. Peel soon made his mark in official life, and became very popular. None knew better than he the wants of the army, or more thoroughly mastered the details of the estimates. His letters to the ‘Times’ on military expenditure showed a complete grasp of the statistics of the subject. He again held the post of secretary of state for war in Lord Derby's third administration in 1866–7, but he resigned office with Lords Carnarvon and Salisbury rather than support Disraeli's scheme of reform (2 March 1867). Throughout his political career Peel preserved an irreproachable reputation, and, although a strong conservative, showed himself when in office a strenuous supporter of inquiries into abuses in all matters connected with military organisation.

General Peel was noted for his devotion to horse racing and his extensive acquaintance with all matters connected with the turf. His racing career commenced in 1821, when he was part owner of some horses with the Duke of Richmond and Lord Stradbroke. In 1824 his mare Phantom ran second for the Oaks to Lord Jersey's Cobweb. It was not till 1830 that Peel's name first appeared in the ‘Calendar,’ when he raced in confederacy with his relative, General Jonathan Yates. Two years later he took a leading position on the turf through the victory of his horse Archibald in the Two Thousand Guineas, and his good fortune culminated with the triumph of his Orlando in the Derby for 1844. In that race Ionian, another of his horses, gained the second place. This was one of the most sensational races on record, and will be always associated with the exposure of a most iniquitous fraud. A horse entered as Running Rein came in first, but was disqualified as being as four-year old, and the race was awarded to Orlando. Mr. A. Wood, the owner of Running Rein, then brought an action against General Peel, as a steward of the Jockey Club, for recovery of the stakes. The case was heard before Baron Alderson on 1 July 1844, when, Wood not producing Running Rein, a verdict was returned for the defendant. In the Newmarket Second October Meeting of 1848 Peel's purple jacket and orange cap, familiar on English racecourses for nearly sixty years, were borne to victory for the last time by a colt called Peter, so named after a sobriquet given to Lord Glasgow by his intimate friends. Peel's favourite jockeys were Arthur Pavis and Nat Flatman. On 18 Aug. 1851 he sold his stud for twelve thousand guineas; but, on the Earl of Glasgow dying in 1869, and leaving him some horses, he again became connected with the turf. At the time of his death his nominations for coming races numbered about fifty.

Peel died at his seat, Marble Hall, Twickenham, Middlesex, on 13 Feb. 1879, and was buried in Twickenham new cemetery on 19 Feb. He married, on 19 March 1824, Lady Alice Jane, youngest daughter of Archibald Kennedy, first marquis of Ailsa, by whom he had eight children: (1) Robert Kennedy, born 5 Sept. 1824, died 17 April 1863; (2) Edmund Yates, born 24 July 1826, lieutenant-colonel 85th foot; (3) Archibald, born 23 Jan. 1828, M.A. of Trinity College, Oxford; (4) John, born 11 April 1829, lieutenant-general, died 17 Nov. 1892; (5) William Augustus, born 27 Nov. 1833, an inspector of the local government board; (6) Margaret, died April 1890; (7) Alice, who married Sir Robert Burnett David Morier [q. v.]; and (8) Adelaide Georgiana, who married Michael Biddulph, M.P., and died in 1872.

[Baily's Mag. 1861 iii. 273–8 (with portrait), 1890 liv. 83–94, by the Hon. Francis Lawley; Thormanby's Famous Racing Men, 1882, pp. 120–4; Rice's History of the British Turf, 1879, ii. 267, 323–7; New Sporting Magazine, 1838, xv. 371 (with portrait); Sporting Times, 13 Feb. 1875, pp. 212–13 (with portrait); Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 1874 i. 201–2 (with portrait), 1879, x. 549, 562 (with portrait); Illustrated London News, 1879, lxxiv. 224 (with portrait); Burke's Portrait Gallery, 1833, i. 58 (with portrait of Mrs. Peel).]

G. C. B.